By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — It’s a sign of the time.
One of the town’s “firsts” — First Baptist Church — is getting a face-lift, starting with its historic clock.
Last week the faces of the tower’s clock were removed and will be refurbished to bring the aging wooden circles back to life.
The church has stood at the corner of Crystal Avenue and Broadway since 1884, a “first” church in the Broadway area according to town historical records.
The clock tower was added in 1887.
The church is home to not only a thriving Baptist ministry but also to the Sonshine Soup Kitchen, serving upwards of 50 meals every day.
The church has a rich history in town. Historian Richard Holmes writes in his book “The Road to Derry” that First Baptist served the needs of many area shoe workers soon after it planted roots in town.
Darrell Quinn of Chester is helping with the clock repair work.
Quinn is no stranger to how historic clocks work.
He is Chester’s honorary “Consulting Engineer and Maintenance Supervisor of the Town’s Chronometer,” giving him license to keep tabs on the town’s own historic clock at the Chester Congregational Baptist Church.
“I like the mechanics of it,” Quinn said. “It’s a mix of the old and the new.”
Clocks like the one at First Baptist were always cranked and set by hand until the mechanism eventually became motorized to make things easier.
But the First Baptist clock has been slowing down, Quinn said.
“It had some problems earlier this summer, it kept gaining time,” he said. “We didn’t find too much wrong with it. The motor was still good but the hands were all out of whack and it wasn’t striking the right hour.”
Ron Gagnon has attended First Baptist since he was 6 years old.
He said the church is not only working on the clock but other projects as well, including new exterior trim around building and an eventual conversion from oil to natural gas heat.
The clock will look as good as new once the work is done.
“We’re going to make all new numbers and we’re looking to find some new hands (for the clock face), Gagnon said.
Even with the clock face is missing, the hour still tolls on a regular basis.
“It’s still chiming on the hour even without the hands,” Gagnon said.